Illustration by Faye Rogers.Gardening can be rife with emotional highs and lows. For the novice gardener, the hopes held by a trove of seedlings can be dashed by watching the tiny plants wither and fade, despite one’s best attempts. More seasoned gardeners may bask in the glow of pride, having achieved success with planting, potting and pruning, but the ever-present threats of weeds, destructive insects and plant diseases can cause serious damage to prized patches of green. And for serious gardeners, a shining skill set can become dull if it plateaus; and ultimate garden fantasies, once so promising, can feel like failures if unrealized. No matter where you fall on the gardener spectrum—from houseplant killer to orchid whisperer—there is a garden-specific workshop or program out there to teach, refresh and inspire. Philadelphians are lucky to have so many great resources in our region that offer educational opportunities year-round for the budding green thumb in all of us.
Introduction to Orchids
This introductory class is an overview of basic orchid growing techniques for beginners, taught by Margie Robins. She’ll cover watering, fertilizing, light requirements, repotting and methods to encourage re-blooming. Participants may bring an orchid to class for a consultation.
Sat., March 15, 10 a.m. $10. Primex Garden Center, 435 W. Glenside Ave. Glenside, Pa. 19038. For more information, visit
Edible Fungi Workshop
This workshop will teach the principles of growing edible fungi at home. The class will prepare a substrate (used to grow mushrooms) with gourmet mushroom mycelium and use the mixture to create an artistic addition to the newly planted food forest at Awbury Arboretum, increasing the diversity of edible food onsite. Instructed by Kevin Stutler. Class will last about four hours, so bring a bagged lunch.
Sat., March 22, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. $35. The Agricultural Village at Awbury Arboretum, 1011 E. Washington Lane. For more information, visit
Garden Planning Workshop
Are you still trying to figure out the basics, such as where to plant what in your garden-to-be? This Greensgrow workshop, led by Anna Herman, a master gardener and owner of the Backyard Farm School, will help get your ducks in a row before spring is fully underway. She’ll cover how to use space efficiently, how to successfully modify your garden as the seasons change, succession planting and companion planting.
Sat., April 12, noon to 2 p.m. Cost is $25, includes $10 Greensgrow gift card. Greensgrow Farms, 2501 E. Cumberland St. For more information, visit
Backyard Berries Workshop
This is the perfect time of the season to plant fruits in Philadelphia. This workshop will cover the basics of growing berries and brambles, including plant selection, planting and pruning. Instructors will discuss common fruits—such as blueberries, raspberries and strawberries—and introduce some more unusual options, such as goumis, gooseberries and bush cherries. Instructor Phil Forsyth is the director of the Philadelphia Orchard Project, a nonprofit that plants community orchards in the city.
Sat., April 26, noon to 2 p.m. Cost is $25, includes $10 Greensgrow gift card. Greensgrow Farms, 2501 E. Cumberland St. For more information, visit
Create a Work-Free Garden
If you’re a little more on top of your garden game, but want to step it up without adding a ton more work, this lecture is for you. Dr. Harold E. Sweetman, executive director of Jenkins Arboretum, will focus on plants in the Heath Family—scientifically known as Ericaceae—which can grow in even the most infertile environments. Blueberries are just one of the ericaceous plants that will be highlighted, and who wouldn’t want a fresh supply of this super food all summer long? (Just make sure to plant some for the birds, too!)
Wed., April 30, 7 to 8:30 p.m. Cost is $25 for members, $30 for others. Morris Arboretum, 100 E. Northwestern Ave. For more information, visit
Bucks County Excursion and Buying Trip
Don’t trust big-box stores to guide you through your first foray into home gardening. Instead, join experts from Swarthmore College’s Scott Arboretum on this guided jaunt into the countryside, and shop for herbs, annuals, and more unusual plants at local farms and nurseries. Trip includes visiting the Hortulus Farm, a 18th-century farmstead in Newtown, Pennsylvania. The cost includes transportation, tour fees, lunch and snacks. Participants should bring cash for plant purchases.
Wed., June 11, trip departs at 7:30 a.m. Cost is $65 for members and $105 for others. Swarthmore College’s Scott Arboretum, 500 College Ave., Swarthmore, Pa. 19081. For more information, visit
Helpers or Hinderers?
Let’s play “Name That Bug.” Can you identify five insects that are good for your garden, or a few that are out to do serious damage? Learn to stay ahead of the destructive ones and attract the helpful ones at the Pest Identification Workshop at Longwood Gardens. Using their grounds as an outdoor classroom, participants will learn to identify insects—friend and foe—as well as natural and chemical methods to manage pests. If pests aren’t your concern, Longwood offers a Continuing Education curriculum throughout the year.
Thurs., June 12, 9 a.m. to noon. Cost is $95. Longwood Gardens, 1001 Longwood Rd., Kennett Square, Pa. 19138. For more information, visit
For the Serious Gardener
If you've become master of your backyard or community garden and have a passion for volunteering, the Penn State Extension Master Gardener Program might be for you. After completing classes that include Botany, Native Planting and Urban Gardening, candidates complete 50 volunteer hours to earn their certificate. The program runs from October 2014 through January 2015, and the cost is $200. Registration opens this summer. For more information, visit
If you have more time to commit, there's a 530-hour, three-year horticultural certificate program held at the original Barnes Foundation’s historic arboretum. A combination of academic and hands-on weekly classes are taught by master gardeners, landscape architects and expert specialists. Students emerge equipped with an immense wealth of knowledge and skills. The program runs September 2014 through May 2015, and costs $2,205 for Barnes members and $2,250 for others. Registration opens in April. For more information, visit
You got the dirt on getting started with your garden, now get the stuff to supplement it—for free. At the Fairmount Park Organic Recycling Center (3870 Ford Rd.), Philadelphians can pick up free compost, mulch, wood chips and herbivore manure. There is no charge for small amounts of materials (up to a 30-gallon can), and those who want to obtain more than that can purchase it from the center. Screened Leaf Compost is made from leaves and herbivore manure—no sewage or sludge material are used.
For more information, call 215-685-0108 or visit